In its quest to support women on ICT and Business Network to become self-reliant, the Director General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Kashifu Inuwa CCIE, has emphasized the need of various stakeholders to support the mantra.
Inuwa who was represented by his special Assistant on Strategy and Innovation, Mrs Iklima Musa, made this remark at the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network 2023 International Women Day Summit, with the theme: Embracing Technology; Welcome the Future. held virtually.
He said the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day and month observance, “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality,” is apt in an era where national economies are fuelled by the positive effects of digital transformation. Therefore, it is pertinent that women and girls who are championing the advancement of digital transformation and education in are recognised.
“In line with the ANWBN theme of “Embracing Technology: Welcoming the Future”, which tends to underscore the importance of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship as a driver for change in our communities. At the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), we consider innovation and entrepreneurship a vital key to the prosperity of our great nation particularly market-creating innovations that have the potential to dramatically transform nations’ economies, he said.
The DG highlighted the Pillars of SRAP that emphasised the zeal of the Association. According to him, Pillar one of the SRAP – Development Regulations, will poster dynamic regulatory instruments that will unlock opportunities across different sectors of the economy in which the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network will benefit more and more.
Pillar two – Digital Literacy and Skills, majority of this Association members will be captured upon while the pillar three – Digital Transformation, will provide a robust digital platform to drive digitisation processes in the digital economy.
Inuwa added that Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship pillar will enable innovation-driven enterprises to thrive.
The DG however, said Entrepreneurship is the pivot on which Nigeria is poised to attain its global competitive potentials and readiness to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
“Over two decades ago, entrepreneurship was theorised to be a potential key driver for boosting productivity, job creation and economic growth. Today that theory has been authenticated as entrepreneurship, and has proven to be a powerful force and an important influencer for socio-economic development.
“The fact that Nigerian entrepreneurs, majorly the youths and women, keep delivering on innovation and promoting inclusion is an absolute indication of Nigeria’s entrepreneurial dexterity. Indeed, entrepreneurs are, and will remain the backbone of the Nigerian economy, he said.
Inuwa stated that “Nigeria’s female population, which the UN estimated to be 104 million in 2021, makes up 43% of Nigeria’s entrepreneurial space. We have seen women’s entrepreneurial participation in e-commerce, agriculture, and digital media (specifically content creation) sectors. As Africa’s largest economy, the increased participation of women in the digital economy has the capacity to help build Nigerian women’s income and ensure that they have access to new employment opportunities. This could facilitate the inclusion of women in technology industries and bridge the digital divide, as gender inclusion and equity remain a pre-requisite for sustainable development.
“It is noteworthy to mention that the Council on Foreign Relations estimates that Nigeria can gain US$229 billion in GDP growth if women’s participation in sectors of the digital economy nears parity to men. This means that a larger share of the global digital economy, which the World Economic Forum (WEF) projects to be worth US$20.8 trillion by 2025 will be fully harnessed.
“NITDA has the responsibility to develop IT, encourage and coordinate digital innovation that can transform our dear country. We believe that the critical drivers of the digital economy and engine room of economic growth are the Innovation-Driven Entreprises (IDEs) and the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that are empowered with digital skills and tools, he added.
Inuwa also said as of December 2020, a joint report by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) states that there are over 39.6 million SMEs operating in Nigeria alone.
According to a World Bank Report on SME Finance, SMEs represent about 90 percent of businesses and more than 50 percent of employment worldwide. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in emerging technologies. These numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are involved. The World Bank estimates that 600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce.
To that effect, NITDA has several programmes and initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide and boosting the innovative capacity of youths and women. These programmes, such as the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support (TIES) Scheme, idea Hatch (iHatch), Bridge to Mass Challenge Nigeria, NINJA Acceleration Programme, North-East Startup Training (NEST), Teach and Earn programme, MIT-REAP Abuja, Google Hustle for Entrepreneurs, Gender Techpreneurship Workshop amongst others are implemented through the Agency’s two subsidiaries: the Office for Nigerian Digital Innovation (ONDI) and the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR).
“We have seen the creation of a vibrant innovation ecosystem that has translated into 33,500 direct jobs and US$4.4 billion in investments in the last four years.
“Most importantly, the Agency is the implementation body of the Nigeria Startup Act, which will serve as a key means in harnessing the potential of our digital economy by providing an enabling environment that can foster the growth and development of innovations in our local startups.
“NITDA in a further bid to make greater and more sustained investments in increasing women and girls’ digital literacy and familiarity with technology, we have conducted capacity building programmes on ICT and entrepreneurship for 560 women in the various geopolitical zones. The implementation of this initiative increases women’s awareness, knowledge, and use of business tools that can help promote their entrepreneurial and career pursuits, increase their access to distance learning, work programs and opportunities, and improve their access to finance.
“We are also, in collaboration with the World Bank, currently implementing a programme called “Gina Mata, Gina Al-Umma”, loosely translated as “Build up women, build the community,” with the aim of training and equipping at least 800 young girls and women with technical training skills and soft skills relevant to the freelance tech industry. This programme will ensure that Nigeria is closer to achieving its 95% digital literacy goal by 2030.
One of the Agency’s key initiatives is the National Digital Skills Strategy which is a comprehensive and strategic roadmap for digital literacy and talent development in Nigeria. A key pillar of the strategy is the Inclusion and Equity pillar, designed to ensure that vulnerable sections of the society such as women and girls, underserved groups living across rural areas, and persons living with disabilities, are well represented in the design of all digital literacy and skills programmes to be implemented in Nigeria, he said.
The NITDA Boss added that, “While paying heed to creating an environment that enables women and girls to prosper as full-fledged members of our digital economy, we are also currently underway with the development of a Gender Digital Inclusion Strategy. The strategy’s objective is to provide a blueprint to Zero Gender Digital Divide in Nigeria, through providing sustainable access to and use of digital technologies and safe online experiences.
“There is much to be gained by leveraging the power of technology in the operations of SMEs. As businesswomen and entrepreneurs, you should be open to new strategies that can help improve your business efficiency.
“NITDA believes that promoting gender equity in Nigeria’s innovation and tech ecosystems remains paramount. As a unifying voice for the advocacy of professional and businesswomen in Nigeria, the Association of Nigerian Business Network is commended for their efforts in enhancing the economic status of women and ensuring sustainable economic development.
“Together, we can achieve this critical task of bridging the gender digital gap in the country, creating a conducive environment for SMEs to thrive, and producing a better and more prosperous Nigeria for our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.
On her part the National Coordinator of ANWBN, Angela Ajala said the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN) is a coalition of 63 organisations that exist to enable the economic status of women so as to ensure peaceful cohabitation, credible job creation and adequate infrastructural provision across Nigeria.
According to her, as a Network, they focus on total women empowerment, building leadership skills, access to credit, patronage of made in Nigerian goods as well as creating a gender friendly environment for women.
During the summit, professional women highlighted their role in using technology effectively in their business, ranging from online payments, seamless hospital consultation as well as marketing consultants via ICT.
At the end, Special Guest of Honour, Hon Abiki Dabiri – Erewa, chairperson Nigeria in Dispora Commission Advice the Association to be focused, because technology is the yardstick of every business Network in the world now